to be Nipped in the Bud - Google censors itself for china
Image by netzkobold via Flickr

US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, has apparently been briefed by Google on their plans to remove censorship of search results on their Chinese site. This could lead to the banning of the search leader from far eastern shores and their withdrawal from China. Google are further claiming that operating in possibly the strongest economy in the world has its drawbacks, aside from Beijing’s insistence on massaging the results of any searches. Specifically, that Google’s servers are constantly threatened by hackers, along with those of other companies operating in the country, and lays the blame for this squarely with the Chinese state. PC Pro reported that the cyber-attacks culminated in the compromise of the email account details of at least 2 human-rights activists.

Within hours of reports that Clinton has asked China to explain the allegations, the White House appeared to be isolating her by saying that the administration had left its response “to Secretary of State … who is scheduled to give an address on Internet freedom next week”. Presumably in an attempt to avoid pissing Beijing off, they are trying to climb back onto the fence.

That the Chinese State uses hacking techniques as part of its intelligence arsenal is not exactly news. I worked for 2 years with a major Chinese supplier of telecommunications and networking equipment. I was deeply suspicious about some of the software that was provided and my attempts to block access by their ‘engineering’ teams drew accusations of racism, mis-trust and fraud. Charming ! Admittedly, there was little proof – just a feeling – and network traces proved little. I doubt any data would have revealed much anyway as the company failed to get significant traffic flowing – mainly as a result of the poor quality of the system – but it did generate a little paranoia in my otherwise trusting soul.

That said, I have also dealt with the more traditional Chinese economy by using factories over there to produce goods for sale over here. Quality was occasionally suspect but the people I dealt with were straight and for the most part responsive. Keen to do business with Europe, they enjoyed the bargaining and pretty much met their promises. Don’t paint the people with the same brush as the State.

If Google’s actions do result in them being kicked out, it will be interesting to see the effects – if any. They have been slagged off for their original decision to kow-tow despite the defense that any online visibility for the people of the, er, People’s Republic is better than none. Certainly, I would hate to be the poor sod grappling with the security of my servers out there. Lest we forget, physical borders have no immediate presence within cyber-space so the fact that certain Minions of Mao may be hacking local servers should wake the world up to the fact they are probably doing similar nasties to networks across the globe.

In the words of the Great KiddyFiddler himself:

“All reactionaries are paper tigers. In appearance, the reactionaries are terrifying, but in reality they are not so powerful. From a long-term point of view, it is not the reactionaries but the people who are really powerful.”

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1 Comment

SimonJanuary 20th, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Interesting article from TechRepublic which rather turns this on its head. Check out: